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Last Updated : Feb 22, 2019 01:00 PM IST | Source:

Electronic visas to biometric gates, how smart technologies are transforming air travel

Smart travel solutions are turning out to be game changer for the travel and tourism sector both in India and world over.

Maryam Farooqui @farooqui_maryam
Representative image
Representative image

Planning an international trip? Wouldn’t it be nice to get your visa done with less paperwork and on your computer without going to embassy or consulate offices? That’s the power of technology which is making travel smooth and convenient.  And that’s not it. Technology in many more ways is transforming the travel industry.

There are a few airports that have installed smart security also known as biometric smart gates. They not only make border controls more secure but also expeditiously process travellers. These gates check for fingerprints, iris and facial recognition for traveller identity verification.

Take Dubai International Airport for instance. UAE residents flying to and out of the airport just have to use their Emirates ID to propel through smart gates at passport control in just a matter of seconds.

And India is not behind in the race. “India has been at the forefront of smart travel as a destination, attracting tourists with products such as electronic travel authorisation and electronic visa submission forms,” according to Benjamin Boesch, Head – Digital and eCommerce, VFS Global.

VFS Global is considered as the largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide.

“Among the most important and common smart travel offerings include: electronic visa on arrival, eVisa products, and biometric smart gates (increasingly being introduced at several border and immigration checkpoints)."

Boesch said that such measures have helped in boosting tourism in 2017 as over 10 million foreign tourists visited the country, a growth of 14 percent over the previous year.

"As a source market too, there is a much greater comfort today among Indian travelers with using digital solutions. The smartphone in its current avatar is not even a decade-old, but it is used extensively across India for a growing range of functions, from research and planning, to booking and navigation," said Boesch.

There is also a rising trend in the aviation sector of risk based security screenings and smart technologies. This is to make aviation safe and secure and also to make it more cost efficient and preserve the image of fast and convenient travelling at the same time.

In last few years, there have been risk-based approaches like International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Checkpoint of the Future, the CAPPS (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System) or PreCheck programmes by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) in the USA.

"These are all products that various public and private institutions are providing for domestic and international tourists abroad, to ensure safety and streamlining of immigration and border control activities," he added.

A comprehensive model for smart travel including smart visas, smart borders, smart security processes and smart infrastructure is also one reason for the unprecedented growth in the number of people travelling around the world.

According to UNWTO (World Trade Organisation) World Tourism Barometer estimates, international tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 7 percent in 2017 to reach a total of 1,322 million. It is also expected that the strong momentum will continue in 2018 at a rate of 4-5 percent.

One major barrier to mobility that travellers face is while obtaining visas. And many countries have overcome this barrier by offering e-visa services. Boesch said that 44 countries offer e-visas or some form of electronic visa solution for travelers and he expects more to follow.

"E-Visas allow the secure management of the visa application process to take place entirely in a virtual environment, increasing time and cost efficiencies for the end customer and the concerned government," said Boesch.

While newer technologies are making travel seamless for people Boesch said it is also strengthening travel industry's strategic importance in the private sector, as well as in government-to-citizen services.
First Published on Feb 22, 2019 01:00 pm

tags #Travel

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